Deconstructing the “Vote for Trump” Arguments of the Christian Right

James Dobson may be a good preacher, but he’s a lousy human being for “leading” his flock astray in the name of what he believes to be a higher calling.

In case you missed it, Dobson has sent a lengthy letter to his followers to help justify them voting for Donald Trump in November, despite the relentless bombardment of the foul wind that has soured even the air we breathe every day of his “administration.” (Ed Note: you can find a link to the actual letter within the reference I’ve provided, but I will not link to it directly myself.)

There’s his total botching of the virus, his secret dealings with the Russians, his self-centeredness at the cost of hurting others, his lies about immigration, his tax boon to the 1%, the spectacular increase in the national debt, his disdain for people whose skin color isn’t white, his attacks on the mainstream press, his violation(s) of the Emoluments Clause of our Constitution, his unstable mental state, the fact (yes, fact) that he’s intellectually challenged, and most of all, that he’s a loser and always has been, a snake-oil salesman from the Wayback Machine.

And yet, here is Dobson — one of the Christian Right’s most beloved leaders — telling us that none of it matters, that he needs our votes, so that Dobson and those of his ilk can fully overthrow the U.S. Government and take control of the United States on behalf of Jesus. Don’t believe me? Read Anne Nelson’s powerful book, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right and argue with her documentation of this Christian Conspiracy.

I’ve got to be honest here. This is the greatest threat to the wellbeing of the U.S. since the Civil War. Here’s just one section of Dobson’s rhetoric:

Disengaged people won’t lift a finger to preserve this great land. They won’t take even a few minutes to go to their polling places to vote. There are also thousands of pastors who won’t allow voting registration tables in the lobbies of their churches. Don’t they know or care that America is on the ropes? Hordes of angry anarchists are salivating over the next election, hoping to push America over a cliff. If they succeed, as Newt Gingrich said, Western civilization will never recover. Is there anyone left who believes some things are worth dying for?

This kind of language is highly manipulative, for it begins with a false witness, that America is on the ropes with “hordes of angry anarchists” salivating over the next election. Seriously?

People smarter than him and with more money than him are taking advantage of this entire shadow government that the Christian Right has been plotting and building. These Silk Stockings really don’t give a ripple chip about what’s contained in Dobson’s apologetic; they just need their votes. I promise you, this will not end well for those who believe as Dobson does.

So let’s examine the “seven critical issues” that Dobson uses as justification for voting, once again, to keep a damaging reprobate in office.

The Next Generation — This is number one, because it fits his narrative. Moreover, it tickles the ears of his older followers, and he knows that they care deeply about their progeny and their legacy. What better way to hook people than to talk about their children and grandchildren in light of that which hasn’t happened yet. James Dobson may think himself a prophet, but lies like this are certainly NOT prophecy.

“Make no mistake, the left and secular culture are manipulating the minds of your sons and daughters every day of the year.”

With respect, Dr. Dobson, isn’t that precisely what YOU do? You watch a Super Bowl halftime show starring Jennifer Lopez and “just know” that it’s harming those poor, impressionable kids who were really there just to watch a football game. In whose reality is this true? Only yours, sir, and when you work to make that vision real, you remove any opportunity for adults to talk with their children, which appears to be something you’d rather do for them.

The Sanctity of Human Life — Here, Dr. Dobson trudges out the tried and true. Using the worst possible statistic — that more than 60 million “babies” have been murdered since Roe v. Wade in 1973 — Dobson et al continue with the hypocrisy of describing themselves as “Pro-Life”.

“This is the most tragic holocaust in the history of the world! Some states have even passed laws allowing wounded and suffering infants to lie alone on porcelain trays after somehow surviving unsuccessful abortions. They will die without the comfort of their mothers’ breasts. If that doesn’t touch your heart, you are without compassion. I hope you will not cast a single vote for any politician who supports such wickedness.”

I’m so tired of this worn out piece of propaganda, mostly because it’s been used to vilify a great number of good people who didn’t and don’t deserve it. Moreover, to use this narrative to hook followers by calling pro-choice people “pro-abortion” is all the evidence I need as a human being to question the motives here. I mean, Dr. Dobson, God doesn’t need you to stretch the truth (there’s that darned 9th Commandment again) in order to advance your political agenda. This is a case where the evidence doesn’t justify the accusations, because the abortion rate has been shrinking to the point where it’s BELOW the rate when Roe v. Wade was originally passed. Dobson and his cronies are stuck in the 1980s, when their quest for political power first moved into high gear.

Marriage and Family — The divorce rate among Americans is dropping as younger people are deciding to wait for better financial security. You’d think this would be great news for people like Dobson, but it’s actually a threat. Remember the Shirky Principle, that institutions need to protect the problem for which they are the solution. And, this means despite the evidence. Dobson will never view marriage and divorce statistics through any lens other than the one he borrowed from Chicken Little.

“…listen carefully: powerful and highly funded forces, including LGBTQ and other leftist entities, are determined to destroy the family as an institution. It is already on its knees, and its future is grim. Before you vote, find out what position the candidates have taken on this issue. Then vote accordingly.”

Fear is always behind so-called Christian appeals for money. Oops. Sorry. I forget to tell you that this letter is also about fundraising.

Religious LibertyOMG, this is THE most disturbing issue of all, because it’s a sneaky bit of slight of hand. At its core, this argument is about raising the influence of James Dobson and the rest of his kind. What good is a religious approach to governing, if you don’t have the legal means necessary to accomplish it? Hence, of all the issues that Dobson touts, this one is THE most self-serving. What these people want is license to do as they please, regardless of the effect on anybody else. To even use the word Liberty in this euphemism is claptrap of the highest magnitude.

“The courts have done the greatest damage, but now an entire sub-culture is trying to bring down the Christian faith. Whether it has invaded your private world or not, it is at your front door…
…Don’t let the government close the doors of your church or tell you when you can sing praises to the Lord Almighty.”

Seriously, this man is deluded, but his prose is highly manipulative, like all the other propagandists who came before him. Religious Liberty is a fallacious “issue” because it’s really not an issue; it’s what these people need in order to pull off their overthrow of the U.S. Government.

Capitalism v. Socialism — Yeah right. How about we tag this euphemism for what it is: an appeal to greed and avarice versus loving your neighbor as yourself. Haven’t we learned by now that capitalism requires a governor, that it cannot be left to the extreme money-makers, because they will always default to profit? Even their philanthropy needs to be examined, because generosity at that level is more an annoyance and a tax write-off than it is genuine concern. Of course, there are exceptions, but those shouldn’t force us into the manipulation of people like Dr. James Dobson. Don’t listen to these convenient phrases, because they have no basis in truth but are a regular staple of extreme conservatism. And what comes after socialism? The great boogieman in the sky Communism. You’ll hear that this year.

“It is difficult to believe that for the first time in American history, our nation appears to be thinking about trading our democratic way of life for the tyranny of socialism. I can hardly catch my breath.”

Sorry, Doc, but you’re going to need more than your own words to prove this, because it’s simply untrue. It is, however, a convenient painting for the brushstrokes that he’s providing. The extreme religious right doesn’t have the chops to back up this piece of propaganda, but it matches so well with Republican Party tactics that it doesn’t matter to them, and especially to James Dobson.

Three other things. One, notice he uses the cover-your-ass words “appears to be.” Dead giveaway. Two, the 1% comprise a major chunk of Dobson’s operating revenue. Three, it’s simply evil to take study results and provide your own interpretation, as Dobson does with this sentence: “Is it true that up to 40 percent of millennials and others are prepared to surrender their liberties in exchange for the absolute authority of the state?” Sorry, folks, this guy’s own words convict him. Too slick. Too sleazy.

The Judicial System — Here, Dr. Dobson gets to the heart of the whole matter, his absolute justification for voting for four more years of the Trump holocaust. The extreme righties demand a Supreme Court that does their bidding, so they’ve created this straw man to force their interpretations of how our judicial system works onto the public and hopefully force their way into our business.

“But again, and again, they have overstepped their authority and brought us atrocities such as abortion on demand, same-sex marriage, and the so-called “separation of church and state,” which doesn’t appear in the Constitution.”

Finally, I know these people. They will never stop at a conservative majority, because they want to force their beliefs and practices on everybody else. Abortion, after all, isn’t really about killing babies; it has always been and will remain a form of birth control to them. And, if you think about it seriously, you’ll realize it’s really all about sex. They have a very rigid formula for sex and birth control, so don’t be fooled. This is why they so steadfastly argue for judges who “don’t make law,” whether it’s necessary or not. All they want is THEIR way.

The Nation of Israel - I’m glad Dobson saved this one for last, because it’s personal for me. The United States GIVES Israel $1,000,000 every single day, holidays and weekends included, without any strings attached, only that it be used for defense. Against whom? They are already THE malicious bully in the Middle East, killing grown ups and children with impunity in their quest to claim all the land from the Jordan River to the sea. The Israelis are masters at propaganda, and American ears hear only that.

“Scripture tells that those who bless Israel will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Our prayer is that the next Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. will continue to promote and cultivate a vibrant bond of friendship with the nation of Israel, which is our only ally in the Middle East. Anti-Semitism and all forms of racial discrimination are inherently evil, and we condemn them categorically. We are a nation that is dedicated to ‘freedom and justice for all’ ”.

Into this apartheid political mess in the Middle East come the Christians with their love of Holy Land Tours and admonitions from their leaders that Israel can basically do no wrong, because GOD is with them permanently and in perpetuity. Really? My son-in-law was among the Palestinian people forced to relocate to Jordan by the Israelis in 1967. His views are so much more believable than the stuff that flows in church about Zionist Israel. And, of course, they wield the antisemitism label without challenge, so as to silence their critics. A million dollars a day. Imagine what we could do at home with that money. And, then there’s this “only ally” assertion. If the political situation was different, do you honestly think the Arabs wouldn’t do business with us?

There’s also the regular criticism of Islam as an “enemy” of America. We should instead be asking, “Why are these people so angry?” That presupposes, of course, that we can get past the propaganda of the oil industry to actually consider it.

All of these “faithful” men and women are overcome with a thirst for power under the sun, and if I can reference Ecclesiastes, that is only vanity. It’s a temporal power, but one these people believe they are owed by their dedication to what feels to them like a righteous calling.

It’s all bullshit! And, here’s my summary. Vote for the candidate you think deserves your vote, hopefully for one that will relieve us of this unrelenting nightmare. There’s serious blood on your hands if you don’t.

Editor’s note: I got all the way through this without once mentioning Fox News. Aren’t you proud of me?

Deconstructing the Sacrosanct Faith of Others

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

One afternoon while working at my desk overlooking the campus of the Christian Broadcasting Network, one of our 700 Club story producers knocked and asked if he could borrow a camera. He wanted to have one of our Vice Presidents interview him about his hand. This fellow had lost one of his fingers to an accident in the past, and he had spoken with this VP about God and his missing finger. They agreed such an interview would be useful to have in order to document the missing finger. You see, he wanted it on hand to use when God grew the finger back, because he “believed” that was God’s plan for him, or at least that it might be.

This may seem laughable to some, but it was seen as a reflection of the reporter’s faith, and questioning someone else’s faith was tantamount to a great evil among Christians of a certain variety. After all, the warning is there in Matthew 18:6 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (NKJV)

I saw this reflected in letters Pat had sent to some questioning viewers. He used it to “edit” the program. For example, we were guided not to show fat people on-the-air, because it might lead others into sin. I saw it in the horrifying letter I received from a man in Pennsylvania — a member of a faith community — whose 10-year old daughter had died from cancer (because they wouldn’t take her to a doctor). Worse, he told me, than her death and suffering was the abandonment she felt from God, because everybody on The 700 Club got healed, so why not her?

I’ve written before that this letter was a major influence on my decision to first leave CBN and go back into local news. I couldn’t argue with our position on faith — it was an unspoken pall that existed just above the surface of every facet of CBN and the ministry of Pat Robertson. If somebody else believed, who were we to question it? It was our justification for reading “praise reports” on the air as they came in via phone calls from our counseling center without verification. It was to inspire people to great faith, even though roughly 9 of 10 of these praise reports were completely false. Who cares if they’re simply “claiming” a blessing ahead of time? It’s THEIR faith, and we cannot question it.

Yes, we are to never, ever challenge the faith of another believer, even if their claim is far beyond the rational. After all, it wouldn’t be “faith” if it was rational, right? After all, anything’s possible with God, right? And their claim must be held sacrosanct, for it’s a terrible sin to interfere with another person’s faith. Besides, we have laws against intolerable behavior towards another person’s faith. That’s in the first amendment, right? The actual word is religion, and faith can mean that, too.

So what IS this thing called “faith” anyway? I believe that it’s the evidence of a life in Christ, which is natural, a life lived in the moment, absent the anger and resentments of the past and the fear and anxiety of the future. This is the subject of my newest unpublished book, Life on Life’s Terms: The Remarkable Secrets of People of the Moment. I feel so strongly about this that it has become a regular part of my study.

Common phrases like these all speak to faith as what one “believes”: “I’m believin’ for a miracle — I’m believin’ for a new purse — I’m believin’ it’ll all be over soon — I believe I’m goin’ to Heaven — I believe in her — I believe that chair will still be there, when I get back — Y’all better believe that was God! — She believed all her life.” Therefore, is this thing called “faith” about what we believe? Many Christian teachings lead to that conclusion. There’s Hebrews 11.1 “Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see.” This entire chapter is a Biblical history lesson about faith, and the important thing to notice is that each involves an action.

There are many commentators with views on this subject. Here’s one:

The Bible says that faith gives substance to the things you hope for. In other words, faith brings those things into your life. … The basic definition of faith, according to the Bible, is simply believing in God’s goodness and believing that He rewards the people who seek after Him.

A lot of people would “Amen” such, but the Bible also teaches that belief isn’t faith unless it’s accompanied by some attached work or effort or assistance to the creation as a whole. Read James, people. What’s that you say? Luther called James ‘the epistle of straw’? It may be straw, but it’s still an Epistle, right? I mean, really. Who was Martin Luther anyway? I’m sorry. Nope. It’s not enough to just believe; one must be involved in some act associated with that belief in order to accurately call it faith.

This is best exemplified by an exchange between the disciples and Jesus found in Luke 17:5–10. It’s a familiar — but often misinterpreted — piece of scripture. It begins with the Disciples asking Jesus to “increase our faith.” This timeline follows the teachings in Matthew 18 about causing others to stumble. That’s important, because the disciples certainly didn’t wish to be in that category. Besides, they were human, and it’s reasonable to add a parenthetical phrase to their question (“Lord, increase our faith, so that we can do the things that you do”). Jesus understood their ego was involved in the question, so He responded with two parables.

The first was the mustard seed. “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would tell this sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Nowhere in the Greek text is there a reference to the size of the seed. Hence, a tiny amount of faith has nothing to do with the question. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Jesus says, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed…” He tells them the mustard seed has faith — absolute faith absent the ability to say no — and if they had similar faith, they could toss mountains and trees into the sea. However, this is followed immediately by the parable of the unprofitable servant, which tells them that even with such a power, they (we) are all still absolutely nothing in comparison to God. This is a giant stumbling block for many believers who think that all they need is a tiny bit of faith in order to move mountains or get to Heaven. Nonsense. It’s also a powerful reminder of the price we’ve all paid for the fall.

(I'm reminded of Joni Mitchell singing, "We've got to get ourselves back to the garden.")

So, now let’s return to the initial question, “If somebody else believed, who were we to question it?”

Can you see how easy it would be to plant a suggestion in the mind of that believer, and for them to run with it? Take the average person’s daily struggle to get by, aided by faith that it’ll all work out in the end, no matter what. The church promises to give them hope through fellowship with other believers in such a way that it internally validates this person’s beliefs. “I’m among others who believe,” is a comforting justification for going along with the group. Add to this the heresy that God wants his children to prosper in every way between the present and Heaven’s gate, and there’s little others can do — no matter how much love they give — to help this person understand the self-centered nature of their thinking.

This person — and a great many others just like them — needs to have their faith challenged, not embraced as fresh meat for the grinder of religion. Religion needs fresh meat, because every believer that dies of old age means a loss to that place of worship, especially in terms of resources.

Today, the church has been swept up in the same lies that the ego has been preaching for centuries, that the culture can be theirs, if they’ll only bow down and worship their own ability to pull it off.

These people believe THEIR faith is enough to view Donald Trump as King Cyrus from the Bible. Cyrus was a reprobate foreign king that God used to send the jews home after years of captivity, and these Christian groups who supported Trump believe that they could simply speak this preposterous comparison into existence. Such is the license granted to anyone who cites religion as their motivation to manipulate the public square. It doesn’t have to be true — in fact, in many ways it’s better that it not be true. It simply needs to be stated as a statement of faith, something they’ve been taught not to question.

The true extent of the evil in our presence today won’t be known for at least a generation, and it’s because this idea of “believing faith” has deep roots within my generation and older. I call on young people everywhere to challenge their own assumptions vis-à-vis what it means to be a person of faith. There is an incomparable hope to those people who live in the moment and surrender to life on life’s terms.

That’s what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.

The Ongoing Hoax of Fox News

Senator Doug Jones
Will the Alabama press paint Doug Jones as a liberal?

Let’s try this again.

Observers of the press in 2020 can be excused for their misrepresentation of Fox News, because it flows from their predictable understanding of the news business: that stories in the press rightly contain the many voices representing the issue being examined. That the mainstream even regards Fox as part of today’s news ecosystem is a significant error, for Fox News doesn’t fit the news paradigm, because its behavior represents itself as a mouthpiece for the political right. Despite its “Fair and Balanced” slogan, Fox News has no need to represent other views, because the “balance” it allegedly supplies is juxtapositioned against the purported bias of the mainstream press as a whole.

Everybody got that?

This is exactly what we did in the 1980s at The 700 Club. We positioned ourselves and our bias as on the same level as everybody else in the press, but with one huge exception. We, like Fox, felt we were providing the “balance” that the mainstream refused to provide, because they were biased in favor of liberalism. The latter, of course, was routinely proven false, but propaganda has no need of or respect for the truth.

Read these next words VERY carefully. The news business is based on what’s new, which includes both ideas and practices within our generally progressive/evolving culture. It’s not rocket science to understand that the word “news” involves that which is new. Those who only wish to protect the status quo certainly have voices within the framework of reporting something “new,” but those voices don’t have the authority to present people simply doing their jobs as representing their political opponents. This is very useful for the extremists, who need to present the press as an outside agitator or key facilitator of the evil they boast about defeating.

This forces the mainstream press into a box convenient for the political right, because the press can do nothing but play defense. It’s especially the case when the right drags out the “fake” news paintbrush. Logical fallacies abound, but there’s nothing the press can do about it, so long as they wish to be called the press.

And, here’s where the thought line gets murky, because professional journalism has its own deception to deal with, one that clouds everything regarding the press in 2020.

We used to think those many voices could be presented within individual stories. Balance, we called it. Fairness. All “sides” included in stories relevant to these varying voices. It was known as “objectivity,” the gift of Walter Lippmann’s “professional” journalism of the early 20th Century. That’s right; it’s only 100 years old.

However, as historian Christopher Lasch so brilliantly noted in his 1990 essay “The Lost Art of Political Argument,” thus began the detachment of the people from the political process. As this professional press grew, involvement in the political process by Americans declined, and not only that, but another consequence was we lost our ability to form arguments. The press did it for us, and this was viewed as progress.

Read further into Lasch’s essay, however, and you come across the real intent of all this, which was to create a sterile environment for the sale of advertising. That’s right. Commerce giants didn’t want their brands soiled by acquaintance with dirty politics, so Lippmann’s views became mainstream. Moreover — and this is the important point — it empowered the tactics of public relations, as envisioned by Lippmann’s Creel Committee cohort, Edward Bernays.

Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, had sneaky and psychologically-based ideas about how a small group of men (this was 100 years ago) could manipulate public opinion through what he called “propaganda.”

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

Propaganda, by Edward Bernays

The ideas of propaganda have been with humankind for several centuries, but it was the space created by the professional press that boosted it to prominence. After all, the essence of mass media is that a single entity can reach great throngs of people, and the 20th Century — with its industrial revolution — was a great test tube for experimenters like Edward Bernays. His access to significant resources (such as money from the tobacco industry, one of Bernays’ initial clients) allowed him to manipulate mass numbers of people.

So the effort to position right-wing propaganda against the mainstream press was really just clever public relations, because these deliberately biased organizations don’t really belong within the body of what we know of as “the press.” This is likely fine with the perpetrators of this false witness, because it served the special interests — a.k.a. the aristocracy, a.k.a. the silk stockings, a.k.a. corporate masters — in their wishes to escape government regulators or cultural responsibilities to the communities they serve. “Noblesse oblige” has gone the way of the Dodo bird, for today’s aristocracy is only interested in themselves.

I will quote John Milton at every turn: “License they mean when they cry ‘liberty’.”

As Pat Robertson taught me, “If I’m playing the position of fullback, and the announcer calls me a halfback, that’s not MY fault; it’s the ignorance of the announcer.” This kind of thinking, we believed, gave us license to call ourselves whatever WE thought was proper. So, the heck with those pesky announcers (cultural observers).

It’s also easy to understand that the press is exasperated with this turn of events, because it’s gone beyond a case of simple political positioning; the radical right is exceptionally skilled at propaganda and no longer wishes to be just a “side” in some observer’s reporting. No, their clear “want” is to always be the player with the most marbles and to keep others (meaning those who are different) out of their inner ring. Call it racism, xenophobia, classism, or whatever you wish, but an economy that serves only the top 1% simply isn’t sustainable absent a bayonet at everybody else’s back. And that, my friends, isn’t liberty; it’s totalitarianism. No wonder Donald Trump envies Valdimir Putin.

Here in Alabama, the demonizing of Conservative Democratic Senator Doug Jones has begun, and his race for the Senate against newly-minted candidate Tommy Tuberville (a former football coach at Auburn, of all things) has all the earmarks of a unilateral attack on the character of a real servant of the people. What qualifies Tuberville? He supports Donald Trump and was a way for him to get revenge on Jeff Sessions for what Trump believes was a betrayal. They’re trying to present Jones as a liberal, which is hilarious to those who pay attention, and it’ll be very interesting to view how the Alabama press responds. I think we already know what Fox “News” will present, as well as the many lesser known Fox wannabes that exist here.

That’s how it goes with propagandists, those bearers of false witness demanding license for the 1%.

I’ll keep you posted.

BONUS LINK: The Underlying Fallacy of Fox News

The Outrageous Malfeasance of the Press in the Trump Era

When I was in rehab long ago, I was taught how to “play the tape out to the end” when considering thoughts about drinking. This was a metaphor used to teach us that alcoholic thoughts never include the inevitable damage from our actions. Hence, the need to deliberately stop and think about how it will end, which reveals that we are the authors of our own bad habits and their results.

This remarkable exercise teaches us that we can’t always trust the thoughts that drift through our minds like a herd of wild horses. We don’t have to mount every single thought, and this is enormously freeing to the addict. Who knew?

This way of thinking is relevant in our politics today, for while we’re all thinking about today’s latest self-centered and damaging proclamations coming from the West Wing, we really don’t think much about where it’s all going. The press is ignorant of the truth about how we got here and where we’re going.

The press simply can’t believe what’s in front of them, because they try to understand it through their lens as “professional” observers.

The Trump administration was put in place as part of a vast criminal conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. Government using bogus tax exemptions to fund it. This conclusion is based on my own experience and the reading of Anne Nelson’s stunning investigative work in her book Shadow Network.

The Trump administration was not simply a political switch, because Trump’s organization functions more as a criminal enterprise than leaders of the free world. Bullying, suing, projection, and downright lies are the weapons of this régime (and that’s a good word for it). By any standard of thinking, this is evident above and beyond the mere distractions that the press attempts to report within the construct of our usual political system. The problem is that there’s NOTHING usual at all about what’s been foisted upon us by first class manipulators of truth. In fact, the Trump Administration exists as a conduit through which flows the aspirations of big, corporate business, also known as the one percent. Big business has overtaken the government, and there’s nothing “legal” about it.

Trump’s régime gets away with it, because he has tickled the ears of white evangelical Christians with promises that he really cares about them and serves their best interests. He doesn’t, because it’s not in his nature, which is to lie, sue, retaliate and threaten. Folks, he’s been doing this his entire life, and his most significant business history is bankruptcy and failure to pay his bills. He’s not the President, for he simply isn’t competent to handle such a job; he’s much akin to a crime boss, and it doesn’t take any “analysis” whatsoever to figure that out.

Good grief, where is the press?

They are far too busy being complicit in the takeover. In trying to shape the news based on old paradigms, including Daniel Hallin’s Spheres of Consensus, Legitimate Debate, and Deviance. But the Trump Administration violates our laws with impunity and the under the threat of lawsuits. It’s not the American way; it’s Donald Trump’s way. And, again, there’s nothing new about Donald Trump.

Attempts to intervene are painted as political, because that’s the only thing the “savvy” press understands. But they’re not political, because they flow from the hearts of people wanting nothing more than to inject a specific brand of religious fundamentalism into the public square. Unawares, these Christians are risking their own salvation in supporting the idolatry of political power over trusting that nothing happens under the sun without God’s approval. They are on very dangerous ground, because their zealotry has been manipulated by people much smarter than they are. Will God hold them accountable? You bet, because that’s the way life works.

The press ignores religion, which gives those driven by religion the ability to speak past the media and directly to their constituencies. And when the press actually “covers” religion, they reach into the sphere of deviance to do so. This is the great shortcoming of the press as it tries to make sense of the world around us in these troubled times. It’s terribly stupid, not to mention naïve and fearful.

It’s particularly gobsmacking to watch these high priests of journalism fawn over each other in their weak and pathetic attempts to provide us with insight and direction for the future. Wake up, press representatives, or we’re going to end up in serious trouble as a nation.

Does anybody remember Steve Bannon and his vision to reinvent government? Friends, our government doesn’t need reinvention and especially not in the views expressed by Bannon. The press has forgotten that he was the architect of Trump’s victory in 2016. Just read his own words and draw your own conclusions:

I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.

The women that would lead this country would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England. That drives the left insane and that’s why they hate [conservative] women.”

Fear is a good thing. Fear is going to lead you to action.

And we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.

The church militant? Would somebody please show me this in the Bible? Are we talking about the Crusades? Onward Christian Soldiers?

Bannon has declared his intention to become “the infrastructure, globally, for the global populist movement.” Right. And he needs the church for this? God bless America!

We need to heed well the words of John Milton in calling out certain people who similarly wanted power, “License they mean when they cry liberty.” Exactly, because this group doesn’t believe in responsibility to others; it’s all about power under the sun. They think their radical form of conservatism is something new. It’s not. We’ve seen this before from those who’ve wanted dominance over the planet.

“Conservative non-profit” is a euphemism for the radical right’s playbook. A tax exemption can be a license to steal, and the extreme right has used such to fund themselves illegally, for the IRS is (was?) very particular when it comes to political action funded through tax exemptions. I know, because we lost our 501©3 status at CBN for the years 1986 & 1987 and paid a substantial penalty for doing exactly that. You simply can’t use such tax exemptions for political purposes, but it’s a moot argument as long as Republicans control the administration. If the Democrats retake the White House in November, watch for wholesale actions by the IRS (something you won’t hear about from the press until it happens).

To be sure, there are facets of the press who are actively working to present our current danger to the people, but their efforts don’t speak to the underlying realities. Anne Nelson has done the initial investigation.

How about the rest of us pick up the ball and run with it?

A New World Order is at Hand

“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” Robert Kennedy

DISCLAIMER:
Normally, I have difficulty with those writers who feel it necessary to sell readers on their qualifications before presenting their argument. The strength of that argument ought to be able to stand on its own, but this pandemic is changing all the rules and will continue to do so. Therefore, I feel it’s necessary to provide a little personal background before proceeding. Hence, this disclaimer.

On Wednesday, February 20, 2020, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 29,348.03. Earlier that morning, I posted this on Twitter:

I’m no prophet, but I have a pretty good track record of listening and then reporting. I could literally feel the breaking and crumbling, along with all the pain associated with it. I’m like many other sensitive souls who value their connection to the cosmos above the rewards of this life. We are scattered throughout the arts community, where the concept of muses is taken pretty seriously.

Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music and a prolific song writer, once told me, “I never wrote anything. I just heard them first.” This statement of humility says much about the creative process and Mr. Monroe’s steadfast commitment to it. By his own admission, Bill Monroe was a better listener than a writer.

I was a good assignment editor in my TV news career, because I could manage to get myself ahead of my competitors simply by paying attention. In my career as a consultant, I helped — along with many others — in understanding and defining disruptions and innovations associated with the internet and the news community.

My work on defining the pieces of a cultural swing that I call “postmodernism” is used to teach others around the world. My essays can be found in university syllabi in many places, which is a pretty high honor for a guy who never went to college. I taught media ethics for the postmodern era for several semesters as an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas.

Despite all that, I still tremble when I put my ear to the wind, because most people judge this as foolishness, and I know that repeating it is an invitation to rejection, which is something I really don’t handle very well. Nevertheless, in uncertain times, I’m comforted, because I believe that there’s a bigger picture regarding life than most people can see. Caveat emptor, however, as you read on.

WHAT’S AHEAD
So, with that lengthy disclaimer, let’s put our long-term glasses on and try to reasonably discuss life after the quarantine, when the threat is over and leaders get back to work. Nobody really knows what’s ahead, but that should never stop us from thinking about it anyway. As with every crisis of human life, there will be opportunity and there will be loss. As a result, it’ll doubtless be a season of innovation as we search for a new normal. This is a good thing, because the West prior to the virus wasn’t exactly headed down a sustainable path.

The normal will be new, because this event can’t help but reveal inefficiencies, sloppy thinking, and errors within the old culture, and we will move to correct each one of them. For example, Macy’s announced that it was closing all of its stores for the duration of our crisis. Does anybody really think all of those stores will reopen after this? Not a chance. Macy’s wasn’t in the greatest shape before, so we shouldn’t expect them to suddenly find piles of extra cash to throw at an archaic business model. Reinvention will be the biggest challenge ahead for the business community.

We are all together in this vast lifeboat, and this is what may produce the biggest changes, a more utopian and less dystopian global culture. We know for a fact now that the 1% care only about themselves. We’ve also learned to recognize the voice of propaganda and that there’s no such thing as a stupid question anymore. We know for a fact that we are the only ones who truly care about ourselves, and we must not underestimate the power of this enormous shared survival experience and our frightful journey in our lonely lifeboats.

There will be an immediate rush to restore the status quo, but this will run into a wall of those who survived in spite of the rug being pulled out from under them earlier. Do we really think people will welcome back the same set of fundamentals that put us in this situation in the first place? They, the thinking will go, drove us into this, and we’ll not be so foolish again. Mark these words, for there’s no way we’ll ever again be satisfied with that particular status quo. We’re going to demand something different. Already, thinkers such as Henry Kissinger, who helped create our world order, is urging nations to protect that order above all (The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Forever Alter the World Order). It’s a fool’s errand.

Stores like Macy’s, for example, are going to lose their best people during or after this layoff. You think those folks will happily return? That $1,200 is going to seem like a very small “bonus” for having their lives completely turned upside down. We’ve never had so many people out of work, and at a time when American businesses have been artificially propped up by corporate welfare from this White House.

Moreover, the cultural shifts we’ll face have already been underway for a great many years, and we’re ripe for something different. Will it be opportunity for you or loss?

Which religions will fade and which will be exalted? Many think the 21st Century will be the epoch of Islam, because other governing concepts have all failed. Democracy doesn’t work absent internal governors, because otherwise corruption is inevitable. Our culture is based on oaths and promises, which mean very little anymore, and this needs to change. Religion offers such guidance, but which religion? Everything is on the chopping block.

Then there’s the great divide, an awful season of extreme fringes and their takeover of our political system. The truth is that most of us aren’t fringe, and we’re really sick of being forced into either extreme political box. I’ve bent over backwards to inform everybody that tolerance assumes the power to not tolerate. Otherwise, it’s not tolerance; it’s a bayonet at our backs. No American truly pissed about what’s happened to us — since Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell assumed control of the Republican Party — will ever wish to go back. The Democrats have been delivering their “progressive” agenda for many years. Neither speaks for the huge middle that represents the vast majority of us, and until this is articulated and shared, uncertainty will remain.

Our attitudes about ourselves and each other will be the most underreported aspect of what lies ahead, for this isn’t the stuff of mainstream thinking. We will have survived a shared disaster! Think about that for a minute. While no one can say for sure what this means today, it certainly suggests a culture more interested in unity than before.

It may sound foolish, but the great middle needs to unite as a lobbying organization with the power to swing elections. Our choices would force people back to our turf, where we have the muscle to force political unity. Elected officials will have no choice but to respond. Our platform would begin with our willingness to vote for whomever we think we need at the time, regardless of ideological affiliation. We’ve no use for the political system that has a bayonet at our backs forcing us into choosing extremes. Black and white are forced upon us without the opportunity to investigate shades of grey.

Despite the cynicism that I realize is present here, my glass is always half-full in looking downstream. We see through a glass darkly anyway — especially when that glass is pointed downstream — but fear is a rotting and corrupting influence that extremists find easy to manipulate for their extreme purposes. Those who use fear for political gain will be seen as transparently self-centered. I mean, what are “they” going to do to us? Take away our jobs? Put us in quarantine?

Christianity will win the battle with self-centeredness in its midst, and the heresy of prosperity will be formally dismissed as such. The money changers will, once again, be thrown out of the temple. Those who prosper have their reward, and the expectation that their narrative is the ultimate winner will be unceremoniously tossed into the dust pile of history.

It’s even possible that eyes closed shut for years will be opened. Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment, for example, was based on his favorable views of business and not because he’s pro-life. The right response to this is going to have to come from the church, even those caught up in the evil we’ve experienced these last four years. Good people — yes, good — have given themselves over to reprobates whose life goals involve profit, not the unborn. The church must fix this, for we/they are being deceived.

There will remain for many years a strong skepticism about what got us into this, which will lead to a strong call for reinventing a great many things. We may see the most significant shift in our trust, and the technology exists today to create a new political narrative that includes everyday people not driven by ideology. Gone is any idea that any individual group will act in the best interests of others. We now know for certain after four years of Trump that business cares first and foremost about profit, even greed. There can be no argument here, not anymore.

The emphasis continues to shift from the seller to the buyer, because the ability to fool people with illegitimate claims has been seriously weakened. Pay attention to the work of Doc Searls. He’s leading the thinking about buyer-generated commerce, which is quite the opposite of the relentless bombardment of marketing that the status quo has perfected in the modern era.

We will increasingly move in the direction of a more hip population, as the Evolving User Paradigm (the longer users use the Web, the greater the acceleration of the disruptions they create) continues its advance. The gap between intelligence and foolishness will be increasingly noticeable, and ventures targeting early bullshit detection will create a new community of those who want distance between themselves and status quo marketing. If I had any money, this is where I’d put it.

Emphasis on money will be impacted as other forms of currency begin to take shape. Barter is a currency. Love is a currency. Ego is a currency. Respect is a currency. Choices are a currency. Influence is a currency. We use these often, but they will eventually become creatively commodified. It will be very difficult to horde these forms of currency.

Leaders are wanted and needed. Managers, not so much.

Thumbs up for Reddit and other discussion formats.

Every home will be connected — and armed.

Pay attention to the arts and artists who flourish, because their efforts will resonate the new.

It’s going to be harder and harder to make war based primarily on business interests.

When J.D. Lasica coined the phrase “Personal Media Revolution” over 20 years ago, none of us could’ve even imagined how profound this “revolution” would be. We are now our own media companies. We make movies. We make TV. We make radio. Links are still the currency of the Web, and smart people like Dave Winer keep exposing us to new methods of linking that aren’t controlled by a single platform. We may have bumps and bruises along the way, but the internal drive to connect that’s within each of us — even introverts — has unlimited capability to drive us together despite — and maybe because of — the inevitable greed that arises from the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms.

If information is power, the Evolving User Paradigm will keep empowering the masses, and that won’t work well with the modernist idea of top-down command and control. And the modernist managers will be way too busy expressing fear of chaos as the status quo crumbles to actually notice what’s taking place around them.

Media companies will continue to collapse due to debt and ever-shrinking audiences. One can hope that these people will discover how they gave up way too early on the web, because its entire marketing position (top-down) couldn’t stand up to the precision offered by the geeks online. The only logical reason that, for example, the New York Times couldn’t have become Google in the online advertising game is their insistence that they were in the content business. They aren’t and never were. Their business is making money by placing ads adjacent to content. Targeting individual browsers? That came from minds that didn’t give a crap about content. Whose fault is that? Consider the overwhelming popularity of ad blockers, and you can more easily understand where their bread is buttered. There’s nothing quite like following a link only to be told you must disable your ad blocker or whitelist the site before being shown what’s at the end of the link. This is a form of unintended suicide.

New growth centers for people will be built around residents caring for each other. The new currency of choices will be based on human development, not jobs, because people can work online and live wherever. Migration patterns will be interesting to study in the years ahead.

Sociologists will examine the issue of white flight through the lens of business profit, just as was the advancement of women a century ago. White flight is a problem that’s far bigger than anyone chooses to state. White Evangelical Christians have fled along with those who wanted to distance themselves from potential conflicts, mostly racial. This is selfishness gone-to-seed in the name of personal protection. It’s one thing to wish to protect my family, but when that’s turned into any form of group think, it ceases to be a personal choice, because it is such an easy way of life to manipulate from the outside.

Political correctness will be seen rightly as a luxury that we cannot afford. No longer will we tolerate special interests who use modernist tools to convince us of their rights at the expense of our own. Blanket acceptance or toleration of others isn’t an absolute moral perspective that is above all investigation. Again, toleration is based on the assumption that we can just as easily choose not to tolerate. Not all lifestyles, whether chosen or natural, can be considered equal. It just doesn’t work that way, because we need the freedom to draw lines for ourselves. And tolerance doesn’t have to include completely embracing every lifestyle.

Mental health is going to be a thriving medical concern, due in large part to the guilt and shame that we’ll all feel at some point during our isolation. It’s not good for man to be alone, and this Biblical reference doesn’t refer to gender.

Corporate greed has been internally voted down for most of us. It’s so transparent these days that it’s going to be increasingly difficult to pull it off without repercussions. Corporations will closely examine remote work to administer cost savings. We may even see an end to hourly pay, for it’s a holdover from the Industrial Age and doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s likely that everybody will be put on a predictable salary with perks assigned to make it life easier for employees, such as daycare, healthcare, food and supplies, tax deductions, and even shelter.

New special interests will develop and grow, based on our different views of what’s important. These will likely begin as social movements before becoming institutionalized.

Finally, I want to make it very clear that whatever happens, Life will be on our side. In order to function as such, however, we’re going to have to cut away any supposition that this is evil work foisted upon us by the devil. The coronavirus is God’s virus, because theology teaches us that the fallen angel has no power other than what God allows. Is this an act of God in trying to defend our planet? It’s a pressing matter that we must ALL examine with our own hearts, because outside sources are caught in a zero-sum game about planetary resources.

Repentance is the act we all must be willing to make. Sticking with it will be our universal challenge.

Can we blame sin as our culture’s underlying problem?

The assertion by the white evangelical crowd that the culture has been lost to sin is worth examining as we attempt to process the disaster that has been Donald Trump. Moreover, if the culture is lost to sin, has it always been that way, or is this merely a contemporary phenomenon? And, if it’s only a modern-day problem, does the slogan “Make America Great Again” reference a period of time in which the culture wasn’t awash in sin? If so, when exactly was that?

In the world of televangelism, few things are as important (and telling) as fundraising telethons. For all the hollering about faith and how God will sustain them, these telethons are methodical, systematic, manipulative, and self-serving. Nothing is left to chance. Hot buttons are pushed relentlessly. Anything goes when it comes to raising money for rich Christian ministries, something I participated in as show producer, senior producer, and then executive producer of Pat Robertson’s The 700 Club during the 1980s. I was there during the height of the televangelists, before scandals ripped the genre apart, and I was there when Pat ran for President in 1988.

The theme of our telethons was always a variation of how the world was going to hell, because we had lost our Biblical guidance. Therefore, the solution was for viewers to give us the money to combat this through “outreach,” ministry, education, and action. I need to state clearly that this strategy was extremely effective, in part, because the culture wasn’t hearing this kind of message from its leadership. Although very old, the message seemed new, because it was on TV in easily-digestible form. The television rule for audio-video linkage was manipulated, so as to match our words about sin to pictures of calamity big and small. Consequently and for a season, we sat in the position of prophets calling down hellfire and damnation on the culture for its dreadful sins, and it’s a short path from there to blaming the sinners, a.k.a. those demon liberals.

We attributed this conflict to cause and effect without proof whatsoever. That gave us license to say anything we wanted about the culture and attribute it to the loss of Biblical “authority” in our society. In so doing, we completely dissed the blood that was shed on behalf of our rights to self-determination, and, frighteningly, rejected all of those battles as being of the devil.

Who knew that one day we would actually be taken seriously?

This is the underlying pretext for everything from the Christian Right, and it’s why people who have no business being yoked to the extremely wealthy find themselves supporting everything the group tells them to support. The most obvious is in the appointing of judges who pass the litmus test of supporting business owners in all matters regarding business. Moreover, when we hear the phrase “religious liberty,” we must translate that as white evangelical Christian liberty.

If we’re ever to truly understand what’s happened to us over the past four years, we MUST not be afraid to examine these kinds of questions in the light of day. This was modern journalism’s great failure in the run-up to the 2016 election, for reporters simply didn’t see it coming. It’s a cornerstone of the Trump phenomenon, so we’re simply unable to get to the truth absent the deconstruction of this critical influence. Is sin the culprit for which we all must repent, or is something else going on? We must examine it historically, but we must also consider basic Christianity.

Basic Christianity
There is no Biblical entry whatsoever — not even one — that suggests it is the mission of believers to force a non-believing culture to repent. The most oft-quoted Bible story concerning this comes at the end of Solomon’s rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, when God spoke to Solomon thusly:

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land…” 2 Chronicles 7:13–14 (NIV)

In this statement, we learn a great many things. One, that God is the one who’s responsible for those cultural/natural events that believers find so discomforting. Two, the responsibility for these “punishments” is with the believers, not the unbelievers. Three, the land can’t be healed from these pestilences absent the repentance of those He holds responsible, namely those same believers.

Therefore, it’s beyond misleading to claim that God wants to heal the land from sin, so that the righteous can live in peace. Seriously, who do we think we are? Watching people of faith yell and scream about abortion, prayer in schools, and Christian liberty, all the while aligning themselves with the vast wealth of the few is a bastardization of everything that’s truly holy. Period.

This command to repent was directed towards God’s people, not the culture at large. It came at the end of a great accomplishment, which is when humans are most vulnerable to deception. Rather than pat them on the back for such a feat, Solomon called for the Jews to repent, which I’m sure shocked many. The only lesson here for today is that God’s people — if in fact they have won a battle against cultural sin — ought to be on their knees begging forgiveness rather than prayers of thanksgiving and celebration in the White House. The fact that they aren’t is a dead giveaway to the unrighteousness of their behavior.

These are modern-day Pharisees, for God’s book isn’t a message to the culture; it’s a message to individual hearts.

The entire story of redemption is corrupted by the actions of this religious group, for Jesus Himself refused to call for back-up when He was taken to the cross. Spiritual warfare takes place outside the confines of our senses “under the sun,” but these self-centered warriors view the battles as among each other, right here within the whole of creation.

Why is the press unable to argue this? Rationalizations include it’s too complicated, it’s hard to be neutral, and there’s no consensus to fall back on. This is a blight on the practice of journalism, one that has been used to manipulate people and the press itself. There’s no fence to ride here.

Setting Aside History
In their zeal to advance THEIR religion, white evangelical Christians have disregarded the history behind that which we as a nation hold dear. In many of these events and instances, blood was shed — sometimes a lot of it — and lives were sacrificed in order to make these rights worth keeping. However, these elitist representatives of God that we have today think THEIR way is the true path to righteousness and that nothing else matters. It is with haughty, self-centered goals that these people piss all over the sacrifices of history as if they never mattered in the first place.

We fought a civil war over racism, unity, and the extent to which states within the union can try to distance themselves from the rest. The French gave us the Statue of Liberty, and immigration became the bedrock of our fledgling economy. We fought the First World War to spread our thoughts and ideals of freedom to the rest of the world and to protect our rights at home. We went through a Great Depression and came out on the other side determined to protect the poor and the afflicted from ever suffering again due to the lack of basic necessities. We determined that the market for liquor was so strong that we ended prohibition, because that market led to violence and death in the government’s efforts to press an alcohol-free society. We fought the Second World War to again preserve our freedoms in the face of fascism and its intolerance for personal rights. We helped dismantle Communism. Add to these the efforts to secure women’s rights, labor rights, civil rights, gay rights, and even the “rights” of our planet itself. It’s easy to understand why opponents of the current administration are not only opposed to shoving all of this aside but appalled and infuriated at the mere suggestion. Who knew we’d have to fight all of these battles again?

Governmental regulations of businesses, such as environmental mandates, didn’t just suddenly appear in a vacuum. These were hard-fought victories for all of us, as we tried our best to advance not only our culture but the human race in total. Did this burden the business interests of the country? Of course, but it had long ago been determined that they helped foster environmental concerns and human rights violations in the first place. There is nothing inherently righteous or evil about Capitalism. It’s an institution of humankind, and profit can be a highly selfish motive for cultural behavior.

This is now all being set aside by the good intentions of the few, and that is the real tragedy of our current dilemma. Add to this the idea that foreign leaders are willing participants through subversion, and we have very real dangers to consider. It is a real slight-of-hand to incite disputes among us when the truth is that we are not our real enemies. There are others who want what we have and will do anything to disrupt the unity that we struggled so dearly to gain and protect.

Adverbs like forward and backward are used to describe culture but only by those making self-serving judgments as to its governance. Both are pejorative and ineffective descriptors, because cultures don’t actually do any moving. There is only the present. Sure, there’s history and there’s the future, but we can’t do anything about either. We only have the present, and that’s where our efforts are best presented. We must always guard against those who will direct us to the future, for such is a license to deceive.

So, let’s go back and repeat our central question: Is America so corrupted by sin — especially the sins of those atheistic liberals who want to destroy the church — that only a revival of religion (specifically, white evangelical Christianity) will solve what ails us? I’d argue strongly that the answer is no, but even if there’s a grain of truth to it, the correct spiritual response is prayer, not political action.

Today, there are those who think the world is going to hell due to Trump and his cronies pressing absurd demands based on their beliefs in absolute certainties. Those who pointed to corruption of the culture have now themselves become the real corruptors, and it’s going to take more than our votes to sort it all out.

Honestly, we’re going to need the chaos of Life to fix this terrible mess, and that’s exactly what I choose to see happening today. To paraphrase George Carlin, if we’re going to have a disaster, make it so big that we destroy everything and have to start over.

Even so, let it be.